McHistory | WGLT


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McHistory goes back in time to explore big moments and small stories from McLean County history. McHistory episodes can be heard periodically on WGLT's Sound Ideas. The series is produced in partnership with the McLean County Museum of History.

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Basketball team photo
McLean County Museum of History

The McLean County Basketball Tournament is one of the longest running basketball tournaments in the state of Illinois.

Here is a profile of a man who drove vice presidents and governors, wealthy landowners, visiting artists, and the prominent of Bloomington-Normal all about town more than a century ago.

During Black History Month, this episode of McHistory shows you the working life of Absalom Hawkins, a well-known African American man in the Twin Cities. It also tells you about a 19th century brain drain of African Americans.

Those who became educated had to leave the area to get jobs outside the working class. 

The early 1900s saw an influx of racism and discrimination in the Midwest, from anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, and anti-African American sentiment, to race riots in Springfield, Chicago, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Ku Klux Klan became a force in central Illinois. Segregation grew in Bloomington-Normal and what had been a thriving black middle class was gradually destroyed.

McLean County Jail
McLean County Museum of History

Bloomington-Normal had only one documented lynching.

McHistory: From Cabinets To Coffins

Nov 5, 2019
McLean County Museum of History

John L. Walcott was Bloomington's first undertaker.

This episode of McHistory shares the story of one cabinet furnisher turned coffin maker.

This episode of McHistory was produced by WGLT's Mary Cullen, featuring Bill Kemp of the McLean County Museum of History and Seth Wheeler, a volunteer with the museum.

Hear more local history stories by subscribing to WGLT's McHistory podcast.


McHistory: Blazing The Trail For Women Who Write

Nov 5, 2019
McLean County Museum of History

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Irons Folsom Fox blazed the path for women in Bloomington-Normal who had dreams of writing in the late 1800s.

McHistory: Bloomington's Unsung Baseball Great

Sep 23, 2019
McLean County Museum of History

Baseball fans remember the greats of the sport: the Babe Ruths, the Lou Gehrigs. And the players that didn't quite make the Hall of Fame often slip through the cracks of our memory.

McHistory: Early 20th Century Feminism

Sep 23, 2019
McLean County Museum of History

One of Bloomington-Normal's early feminists, Anna May Christian, was proud to live her life as a single woman at the turn of the 20th century.

Woman at a switchboard
McLean County Museum of History

In 1935, switchboard operators for the Wabash Telephone Company handled an average of 60,000 calls coming through its downtown Bloomington building.

This episode of McHistory tells the story of how Bloomington-Normal switchboard girls responded to the introduction of automatic dial systems.

This episode of McHistory was produced by WGLT's Mary Cullen, featuring Bill Kemp and Hannah Johnson of the McLean County Museum of History.

McHistory: Illinois' First Female State Senator

Jul 25, 2019
Florence Fifer Bohrer
McLean County Museum of History

In the decade after women's suffrage, leaders of the female empowerment movement were eager to become more involved in governmental affairs.

This episode of McHistory honors Illinois' first female state senator, and the inspiration for the McLean County League of Women Voters.

WGLT's Mary Cullen produced this episode of McHistory, featuring Bill Kemp and Candace Summers of the McLean County Museum of History.

McHistory: Bloomington's Favorite Son

Jul 25, 2019
Adlai Stevenson
McLean County Museum of History

On the Fourth of July weekend in 1956, one of Bloomington's most famous residents returned to rally support ahead of the presidential election.

McHistory: Civil Rights Before The Movement

Jun 11, 2019
Dr. Eugene Covington
McLean County Museum of History

Dr. Eugene Covington was the first and only African American physician in McLean County in the early 20th century.

Here is a story of hooligans, pranks, and university hijinks from the early part of the last century. It's part of McHistory, GLT's occasional series using letters, articles, and diaries from McLean County citizens written in times gone by.

McHistory: The Roots Of Feminism

May 28, 2019
Professor June Rose Colby sitting
McLean County Museum of History

From 1892 to the early 1930s professor June Rose Colby taught literature, grammar, and composition at Illinois State Normal University. One of the first female professors at the university, Colby was a pioneer for feminism.

And now, one of GLT's recurring features during Sound Ideas using letters, articles, and diaries from McLean County citizens written in times gone by.

Today's McHistory is about the Civil War Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, which took place Dec. 7, 1862.

Next month, the Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield for its annual fall veto session in which it considers whether to override the governor's rejections and changes to bills passed by lawmakers.

At the turn of the 20th century, a certain woman journalist put out four columns a week. She was a prolific writer turning in 2,000 words at a crack, a wonderful interviewer, and nobody's fool.

Madam Annette talked with everyone from businessmen and public officials to jail inmates. During GLT's recurring series McHistory we hear portions of one of Madam Annette's columns as she explores a coal mine under Bloomington. McLean County Museum of History Development Director Beth Whisman reads the column with comment from Archivist Bill Kemp.

In 1824 the area that would become McLean County had only 15 settler families. By 1830 when the county came into being the population was still very sparse.

We dip into a half century of diaries of life in McLean County by a carpenter and handyman who wrote fiction and poetry and a log of his daily rounds in Bloomington-Normal. Charles Morgan wrote of freight hopping to Kansas City, going to Nickelodeon movies in the 1910s, the 1918 flu which killed more than 3% of the world population.

An early Bloomington settler and one time friend of Abe Lincoln was also a southern sympathizer. Sarah Withers wrote on May 4th 1861, "This day our nation is to be disgraced by the inauguration of Abe Lincoln as President. How Humiliating!"

A selection from the Withers Diary is part of this episode of GLT's recurring series, McHistory.

In this Black History Month edition of our Sound Ideas recurring series McHistory, you'll hear from a Spanish American War Soldier from Bloomington who writes home from eastern Cuba.

Julius Witherspoon returned to Bloomington after the war, but he was not well, perhaps because of a tropical disease. Witherspoon died a few years later at the age of 46.

McHistory is a co production of GLT and the McLean County Museum of History. This episode included the voices of Museum Marketing Director Jeff Woodard, and Librarian Bill Kemp, and was produced by GLT's Charlie Schlenker.

Lobbying days in Springfield happen every year in which interest groups throng to the state capitol to push for certain legislation. As part of GLT's joint project with the McLean County Museum of History, we take you back more than a century to hear what was an important issue of 1909.

This McHistory starts with a Chicago and Alton Railroad Trip.

The hamlet of Danvers once hosted a sanatorium for those struggling with addiction to alcohol. As part of GLT's joint project with the McLean County Museum of History, McHistory examines this particular cure and the era that lead to it.

America's most successful woman playwright is all but unknown today.

Though a city in the free north, southern-state settled McLean County was not a welcome environment for members of the anti-slave movement.

McHistory: Bloomington's War On Dogs

Mar 15, 2019
Workers with dog
McLean County Museum of History

At the tail end of the Civil War, there was another battle stirring in the City of Bloomington: the war on dogs.

McHistory: Passing The Civil Rights Act

Feb 28, 2019
Rev. Ernest Norquist
McLean County Museum of History

Amidst the civil rights movement, one Bloomington clergyman traveled south of the Mason-Dixon line to register blacks to vote.

McHistory: Bloomington-Normal Under Jim Crow Law

Feb 16, 2019
Lue Anna Brown Sanders Clark
McLean County Museum of History

In the era of Jim Crow laws, enforced racial segregation kept blacks and whites separate at restaurants, in bathrooms, and in education.

McLean County Museum Of History

Today's Connect Transit bus system can trace its roots in Bloomington-Normal back more than 130 years. 

A new form of transportation connected Bloomington residents in the late 1800's, a horse railway.

McLean County Museum of History

We always like to hear stories of lovable rogues, the scalawags who cannot help but be loved despite their moral gray areas.

Here is one such story.